Flush with the thrill of the chickadee encounter, we moved on down the trail, coming to a tangle of downed trees and grape vine, and my keen eye (*snicker*) spotted some movement among the vines--a brown creeper!!
I have only seen one on two occasions, first on a walk in Huron Hills Metropark just down the road from my house, and once this past winter in the trees next to my studio. That time I had been out filling up feeders and again caught movement on a tree trunk about 15 feet away. I froze instantly and saw a creeper working its way down the rotting wood of a dead slippery elm. Within moments it flew closer, landing on a black cherry not four feet in front of me. I watched it for a minute or so before it flew away, then I ran to the house to tell the girls.
They can be very difficult to see thanks to their camouflage coloring and markings. I know this one isn't particularly clear, but you can imagine how on a rough-barked tree this bird would virtually disappear.
Eventually the path left the riverbank and turned back into the woods. It occurred to me after a bit that we were walking on a raised bed, not unlike the dikes in Florida in the Maritime Hammock Sanctuary. I looked along both sides of the trail and could see in places that it had probably been dredged at some point, although I imagine the area had been previously swampy, like in this photo.
Then Lisa picked up a funny looking rock and we gathered round to examine it. Huh. Looks a bit like coal. Oh hey, that's right, I remember reading that the area had been mined for coal decades ago! What we were walking on was probably an old rail bed that was used to get the coal to a barge waiting on the river.
This deer and its partner where checking us out from across the swamp. A bit rough looking, I assume it's shedding its winter coat.
I was disappointed at the number and density of invasive plants in this wildlife "refuge"--it was thick with barberry, glossy buckthorn and garlic mustard to name a few. But in spite of that we came across a decent variety of wildflowers, including the densest concentration of wild ginger any of us has ever seen.
Lots of wild geranium...
and Jack-in-the-pulpit too.
Nearing the end of the trail we spotted this eastern phoebe near a marsh, watching us closely.
Finally, as we neared the parking lot, we came to a small flock of cedar waxwings feasting in...well, I'm not sure what this is. It could be glossy buckthorn--the berries they were eating had to be from last year as no plants had produced yet. This of course is how this plant gets spread all over the place--birds eat the berries and then poop out the seeds. Sigh.
Here is a shot of the backside of a waxwing. Shows off the yellow tips on the tail and the red adornments on the ends of some of the wing feathers--breeding plumage that will be lost when the birds moult in the fall.
We got back to the RV--remember the RV?--and were famished, not having packed any snacks and too little water. Our hikes always take longer than we think they ought to considering the distance we travel, and this was a warmer day than most we'd had up to this point in late April. We sat and had lunch then headed on home.
A week or so later I visited their website, http://www.fws.gov/midwest/shiawassee/, and found that they have a list of bird sightings that is just amazing. Again, we were there about a week too early to really see a huge variety of birds, and I would guess that many of the sightings were near the marsh, not the river and woods. Oh well, someday we'll figure out how to plan our travel times better!